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From dump to art space, Beijing’s ‘Cloud House’ opens its doors

By Cui Guangqi (People's Daily Online)    16:37, December 08, 2017

Beijing’s art and architecture lovers might find it hard to believe that an art space they’ll frequent from now on used to be a dump.

This 3,000-square-meter plot of land, located outside the 5th Ring Road in north-east Beijing, was a garbage dump site in the Chinese capital ten years ago, until an artist decided to settle there with his spouse.

Born in 1952, Huang Rui, who grew up in the heart of Beijing’s hutongs (a set of small passages and alleys), attempted to revive the materials which were used to build the old city of Beijing, but with modern building techniques. Nearly 200,000 bricks that once were part of Beijing’s old city walls, dating back to the Ming and Qing times, were reused.

“The wood I chose for the beam of the pavilion in the garden is the same one that was used to restore the house of Prince Gong,” said the artist, who also said all these materials show an old Beijing which is inundated by contemporary buildings.

In the idea of translating a certain immateriality, Huang Rui called his architectural work, “Cloud House.” Having lived in Japan for over ten years, the man takes care of his home in the same way a Zen master manages his sanctuary. The different spaces of the residence, arranged according to the principles of I Ching, or the Book of Changes, were given names that are inspired by the Sun, the Earth, the cloud, and the wind.

Houses were built around a water mirror to form an enclosure, giving the illusion of a Siheyuan, a traditional Beijing courtyard house.

The rooms are furnished with office furniture transported from the 798 Art Zone, an abandoned factory turned living and working spaces.

“The idea is to create a new classicism through the interaction between different materials, architectural structures, and vegetation,” explained the artist, who decorates his walls with his own paintings created before his departure in Japan in 1984.

From a private studio to an open art space

From December 9, 2017, Huang Rui’s Cloud House will be open to the public every weekend, said Berenice Angremy, an exhibition planner for the establishment, at a press conference on Dec. 8. The new art space will feature the artist’s famous works of paintings and sculptures, including “The Embroiderers of a Production Group” and “The Renewal of Yuanmingyuan.”

In the future, the house will co-organize with the Chinese Foundation for the Protection of Cultural Relics, a series of exhibitions highlighting the research of Luo Zhewen, famous Chinese architect. The place is also ideal for organizing activities such as drama plays, dances, conferences, and projection of films.

During a farewell party at the Cloud House devoted to Amanda Galsworthy, the wife of former French ambassador to China Maurice Gourdault-Montagne said: “The greatest wealth is the wealth of the friendship. Seeing all these friends, I think we are millionaires!”

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(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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